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    New York, Connecticut Soldiers train in helicopter firefighting techniques

    New York and Connecticut UH-60 Crews conduct fire bucket training over Hudson River

    Photo By Staff Sgt. Jonathan Pietrantoni | A UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter manuevers to drop water from a 660 gallon Bambi Bucket...... read more read more



    Story by 1st Lt. Lauren Warner 

    New York National Guard

    CAMP SMITH, Cortlandt Manor, N.Y.- UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter crews from the New York and Connecticut Army National Guards spent May 19 honing the skills needed to turn a helicopter into a fire-fighting machine at the New York National Guard’s Camp Smith Training Site.

    Twelve Soldiers flew three UH-60s to practice scooping up, flying and dumping 2.8 tons of water onto a simulated fire using the Hudson River as both a water source and a target.

    The purpose of water bucket training is to coordinate, train, and recertify pilots between New York and Connecticut to assist with fighting wildfires.
    Helicopter crews that may be needed to fight fires have to train with the buckets, a brand called Bambi Buckets, each spring.

    “The most important thing about this mission is building relationships between states and in the future, if we are called upon to work together, we are able to work together seamlessly,” said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Peter Haack, a New York Army National Guard pilot from Southold, New York.

    The joint exercise was the result of an agreement between New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and Connecticut Governor Edward Lamont announced in August 2019 for both states to work together as part of a new Emergency Management Interstate Compact. The agreement called for the two states National Guards to exercise together.

    "Connecticut is our neighbor to the east, and there are many issues we are dealing with that are enhanced when we work cooperatively," Governor Cuomo said. ‘

    The governors announced that the states had agreed to conduct an exercise to test their response to a brush fire that crosses state lines.
    The last time New York deployed National Guard helicopters on a fire-fighting mission was in July 2018. Two New York Army National Guard UH-60 helicopters were called to a forest fire in Flat Rock State Forest in Altona N.Y. where the aircrews dropped 126,000 gallons of water on the 526-acre fire over a 3-day period.

    To fight fires helicopters sling the orange collapsible bucket underneath the UH-60.

    The 660-gallon Bambi Bucket weighs over 250 pounds with no water. It takes at least two people to open the bucket for operational use.

    The Bambi Bucket is attached to a cargo hook on the aircraft and then an electrical connection is made to operate the bucket. This is completed prior to pre-fighting the aircraft.

    Using an electrical actuator, the switch is engaged to open the bladder of the Bambi Bucket and dispense the water over a designated area.
    For this training exercise, the Blackhawks followed a route over the Hudson River, just below the Bear Mountain Bridge, with the Bambi Bucket slung below the aircraft. The Bambi Bucket was lowered into the river, filled up, and the water was dispensed using a manual release at the target location.

    This equipment is used to put out wildfires, structure fires, and to even set up additional water sources, Haack said.

    Haack has completed this training several times over the course of his career.

    For pilots that have never done this, though, the May 19 training gave them the opportunity to learn from more seasoned pilots and become trained up on the water bucket missions.

    The training exercise was especially valuable because many of the Connecticut aviators are in the same unit the New Yorkers are, the 3rd Battalion 142nd Aviation, Haack explained.

    The battalion’s Charlie Company is part of the Connecticut Army National Guard.

    “They are our sister company. So, we get to achieve commonality working between the units, face time and partnership between both units,” Haack said.

    Members of the New York Guard fly together on a regular basis and are aware of their strengths and weaknesses Haack said.

    Now, that they are able to partner with Connecticut, they are able to learn their differences and work toward becoming a more efficient, cohesive unit, he added.

    Connecticut Army National Guard Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonathan Behuniak, a member of Detachment 2, Company C, 3rd Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment, was one of the pilots conducting the fire bucket training for the first time.

    Behuniak, a facility instructor pilot based at Bradley International Airport, said that because a full Bambi Bucket can weigh between 4,000 and 6,000 pounds the pilot needs a heightened sense of awareness and coordinate with all members of the crew.

    “I just want to do the best job that I can, it is a new mission I have never done,” Behuniak said.

    Although, Haack and Behuniak are from two different states, they both agreed that there are no differences in their standard operating procedures.

    They follow the same guidelines and aircrew manual military wide. This makes it easier for aircrews to communicate during flight times, both men said.

    The goal, Behuniak said, is to be able to respond to a fire within four hours to a fire in the northeast.

    “This enhanced response time and training really helps everyone out. You have qualified crews on both sides of the boarder,” Behuniak said.

    Behuniak said that being in the National Guard is rewarding, especially when it comes to missions like this, as these missions help the community should there be any wildfires in the future.

    “When it comes to it, we take a really deep self-pride in being able to help everyone out, our neighbors, our friends, our loved ones,” Behuniak said.



    Date Taken: 05.21.2020
    Date Posted: 05.21.2020 08:36
    Story ID: 370503
    Location: CORTLANDT MANOR , NY, US

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